Tree Disease Endangering Olive Industry Across Europe

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Manage episode 263490002 series 2530089
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A deadly disease infecting olive trees in Europe may cause over $20 billion in losses, according to a study. An economic impact study was conducted on the olive industry in Italy, Spain, and Greece in light of a spreading infection caused by the bacteria X. fastidiosa. The study estimated the amount of money industries may lose if the disease remains uncured. The first cases of the infection in Italy’s olive trees were observed in 2013. It has since spread outside the country to Spain and Greece. Considered one of the most dangerous plant bacteria in the world, X. fastidiosa can be transmitted by insects called spittlebugs. The infection damages a tree's ability to transport water and other nutrients, which causes trees to eventually wither and die. Tree growers attempted to prevent the spread of X. fastidiosa, but the bacteria continued to spread. In the worst-case scenario, researchers estimate that Italy may lose over $5 billion in the next 50 years. Currently, the disease has already wiped out more than one million trees in the country. Projections also show that Spain may lose more than $17 billion and Greece around $2 billion if the infection persists. The researchers find these losses alarming, considering that the three countries control 95% of Europe’s olive oil production. Fortunately, initiatives against the disease are increasing. Scientists are currently studying why some trees are more vulnerable to X. fastidiosa than others. Some of the researchers believe that the best way to stop the infection is to make trees resistant to the bacteria. Following this development, they are calling for studies about which olive tree varieties have the most resistance.

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